When Should I Start Social Security Payments?

Q: At what age should I start my Social Security retirement benefits?

A: Decisions, decisions, decisions. For many people, when to claim Social Security is one of the most significant choices they will ever make. The timing of the first check affects how much they’ll get from Social Security and what benefits will be available for spouses, children and, eventually, survivors(source: AARP)

Bottom Line: There isn’t a simple, “one size fits all” answer to the question.

It’s an individual decision that, like so many life choices, deserves to be carefully researched and the implications given careful consideration.

If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between.

That said, there are a few basic questions that can assist in the decision of when to begin payments.

  • How much do you need the income from a Social Security?
    • If you have adequate other income to maintain your current life style, then think very hard about starting Social Security payments. The longer you delay, the more you will receive when you do start.
    • If your circumstances are such that the Social Security income is critical to getting along, then by all means,beginning the payment may very well be the correct course of action.
  • Generally speaking, what’s your life expectancy?
    • If you have reason to believe you will exceed the average life expectancy for someone your age, and do not need the income now, then delaying the start of payments may be in your financial best interests.
    • But if you have a serious health condition now, or had parents that died early, then beginning your payments earlier, may be your best choice.
  • Are you really that good at saving and investing?
    • We all have good intentions about setting aside a certain portion of our income and investing it wisely. And many people do. But many also give in to the siren call of the nicer things in life and/or aren’t the “second coming” of Warren Buffett when it comes to successful investing.
    • If you can hold off beginning Social Security payments until age 70, for instance, your payment amount will grow at 8% per year from your Full Retirement Age (currently 66) to age 70. Think about it, that’s a compound growth rate of 8%, guaranteed by the government for four years! Can you really do better? We’re talking about retirement income here!

These are a few basic considerations about the question of when to begin Social Security payments. There are many sources of good information and advice you can visit on the internet.

Begin with the Social Security  Administration

And here are a few more:

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